Iran has Missile Envy

Iran must be jealous of Fox News' 733t Photoshop sk1llz because they've gotten into the game too. Apparently mortified by one dud missile in their test, they did a quick copy/clone job to cover it over with the dust, contrail and missile from other launches in the same photo. Read The New York Times' Lede Blog for the details.

There's not a lot to talk about here -- the motivations and mechanism are pretty clear and the NYT covers it well. My only contribution is some simple image comparisons.

Disclaimer: Images are from the NYT Lede Blog, are the property of their original owners, and are used without explicit permission under fair use for scholarship or review for the purposes of fair and reasonable criticism without claim of ownership or copyright by Chris 'Xenon' Hanson.

Here are the before and after tampering images from NYT/Lede:

Ok, let's line them up in Photoshop. With the tampered image as a Smart Object, use Edit/Transform/Scale to enlarge it to 103.8% isotropically. Then, rotate it to -0.3 degrees and move the top layer around using the fenceposts in the foreground to line things up. Here's an animated GIF of what we see flipping between them:

Ok, now things are a little more interesting. They're not the same image at all. It appears they are sequential photos taken by the same photographer, but the "untampered" image is taken moments before the tampered one. The missiles have moved further up the sky, and the clouds have expanded by the time the tampered shot was taken. Because we had to adjust the scale and rotation, I'd guess it was a handheld camera and the photographer was zooming the lens, rather than a locked-down tripod static shot.

If we had the exif data from both (we don't, I looked) we could check the timestamps and do things like calculate the missile velocity, but really that could be done from the video feeds we've already seen elsewhere. I'm just sayin'... These are the possibilities available via image analysis.

What else can we do? Let's do a pixel delta. See the Obama/OpenDNA article for details on how to do it yourself. Here you go:

What can we learn from this? The delta shows the forward/upward progress of the missiles and expansion of the dust clouds. It also shows pretty clearly that the one launcher is the only area really tampered with. By picking up pieces of the tampered area, lining them up with their source locations and utilizing the delta technique, above, you can pin down where each element was copied from. But, in the end, beyond the original and obvious tampering, there's not much subtle or insidious to discover here. Iran had a missile glitch, and their best photo of the test showcased the glitch too much for national pride, so they covered it up. The real question is, did they not have any other photos to source material from? With an extra hour or so and a few more frames, I could have made a better job of it that would pass all but the most rigorous tests. And maybe even pass them, if the resolution were low enough.

The next time, they'll do better.

Interestingly, this Reuters article has a TV screengrab from "Al Alam" television showing this same scene a few moments later, and the dud launcher can be clearly seen in the foreground if you look carefully.

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